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1.  Does lavender aromatherapy alleviate premenstrual emotional symptoms?: a randomized crossover trial 
A majority of reproductive-age women experience a constellation of various symptoms in the premenstrual phase, commonly known as premenstrual syndrome (PMS). Despite its prevalence, however, no single treatment is universally recognized as effective, and many women turn to alternative approaches, including aromatherapy, a holistic mind and body treatment. The present study investigated the soothing effects of aromatherapy on premenstrual symptoms using lavender (Lavandula angustifolia), a relaxing essential oil, from the perspective of autonomic nervous system function.
Seventeen women (20.6 ± 0.2 years) with mild to moderate subjective premenstrual symptoms participated in a randomized crossover study. Subjects were examined on two separate occasions (aroma and control trials) in the late-luteal phases. Two kinds of aromatic stimulation (lavender and water as a control) were used. This experiment measured heart rate variability (HRV) reflecting autonomic nerve activity and the Profile of Mood States (POMS) as a psychological index before and after the aromatic stimulation.
Only a 10-min inhalation of the lavender scent significantly increased the high frequency (HF) power reflecting parasympathetic nervous system activity in comparison with water (aroma effect: F = 4.50, p = 0.050; time effect: F = 5.59, p = 0.017; aroma x time effect: F = 3.17, p = 0.047). The rate of increase in HF power was greater at 10–15 min (p = 0.051) and 20–25 min (p = 0.023) in the lavender trial than in the control trial with water. In addition, POMS tests revealed that inhalation of the aromatic lavender oil significantly decreased two POMS subscales—depression–dejection (p = 0.045) and confusion (p = 0.049)—common premenstrual symptoms, in the late-luteal phase, as long as 35 min after the aroma stimulation.
The present study indicated that lavender aromatherapy as a potential therapeutic modality could alleviate premenstrual emotional symptoms, which, at least in part, is attributable to the improvement of parasympathetic nervous system activity. This study further implies that HRV could evaluate the efficacy of aromatherapy using various fragrances to relieve premenstrual symptoms, and ultimately, support the mind and body health of women.
PMCID: PMC3674979  PMID: 23724853
2.  Altered autonomic nervous system activity as a potential etiological factor of premenstrual syndrome and premenstrual dysphoric disorder 
Premenstrual syndrome (PMS) encompasses a wide variety of cyclic and recurrent physical, emotional, and behavioral symptoms occurring during the late luteal phase of the menstrual cycle and abating shortly following the beginning of menses. Although PMS is widely recognized, its etiopathogenesis is not yet understood. The present study investigates whether the activity of the autonomic nervous system, which plays a vital role in orchestrating physiological homeostasis within the human body, is altered during the menstrual cycle of women with different degrees of premenstrual symptomatology.
Sixty-two women in their 20s to 40s with regular menstrual cycles participated in this study. All subjects were examined during the follicular and late luteal phases. Cycle phase was determined by the onset of menstruation and oral temperature and was verified by concentrations of ovarian hormones, estrone, and pregnanediol in a urine sample taken early in the morning. Autonomic nervous system activity was assessed by means of heart-rate variability (HRV) power spectral analysis during supine rest. The Menstrual Distress Questionnaire was used to evaluate physical, emotional, and behavioral symptoms accompanying the menstrual cycle of the subjects. The subjects were categorized in three groups, Control, PMS, and premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD) groups, depending on the severity of premenstrual symptomatology.
No intramenstrual cycle difference in any of the parameters of HRV was found in the Control group, which had no or a small increase in premenstrual symptoms. In contrast, Total power and high frequency power, which reflect overall autonomic and parasympathetic nerve activity, respectively, significantly decreased in the late luteal phase from the follicular phase in the PMS group. As for the PMDD group, which had more severe symptoms premenstrually, heart-rate fluctuation as well as all components of the power spectrum of HRV were markedly decreased regardless of the menstrual cycle compared to those of the other two groups.
Several theories have been proposed to explain the underlying mechanisms of PMS with its complex web of bio-psycho-social factors. Although causes and consequences continue to elude, the present study provides intriguing and novel findings that the altered functioning of the autonomic nervous system in the late luteal phase could be associated with diverse psychosomatic and behavioral symptoms appearing premenstrually. In addition, when symptoms become more severe (as seen in women with PMDD), the sympathovagal function might be more depressed regardless of the menstrual cycle.
PMCID: PMC2253548  PMID: 18096034
3.  Lower peripheral circulation in eumenorrheic young women with premenstrual symptoms 
A majority of women from all cultures and socioeconomic levels experience diverse psychosomatic and behavioral symptoms premenstrually, a phenomenon commonly termed premenstrual syndrome, although symptoms and discomfort levels vary from woman to woman. The underlying pathological mechanisms of premenstrual syndrome remain unknown; however, altered function or even slight disorder of the blood circulation system, which contributes to the orchestrations of the human internal environment, could cause bio-psychological changes leading to complaints and ultimately compromising a woman's overall health. The present study, therefore, investigates to what extent and how the menstrual cyclicity of peripheral circulation is associated with premenstrual symptomatology.
Twenty-one eumenorrheic young women participated in this study. All subjects were investigated during the follicular and late luteal phases. Cycle phase was determined by the onset of menstruation and oral temperature and was verified by concentrations of ovarian hormones, estrone, and pregnanediol in a urine sample taken early in the morning. Peripheral circulation was evaluated with the Astrim (Sysmex, Kobe), a portable non-invasive monitoring device using the principle of near-infrared spectroscopy, which calculates the venous oxygenation index (VOI) based on the ratio of light absorption of oxyhemoglobin and deoxyhemoglobin, a proven reliable indicator of peripheral blood circulation. The Menstrual Distress Questionnaire was applied to measure physical, emotional, and behavioral symptoms accompanying the menstrual cycle of the subjects.
The oral temperature and urinary ovarian hormones adjusted for creatinine significantly increased in the late luteal phase in all subjects. While 10 subjects experienced no symptoms during the menstrual cycle, 11 subjects had apparent physical and psychological discomfort in the late luteal phase. We found that VOI decreased more significantly in the late luteal phase than in the follicular phase only in women with premenstrual discomfort although the symptoms were not unbearable enough to cause the disruption of daily activities.
Several models have tried to explain the etiopathogenesis of premenstrual syndrome. Although causes and consequences remain enigmatic, our data suggest that the peripheral circulation could alter in the luteal phase, which might be partly associated with premenstrual psychosomatic symptoms in eumenorrheic young women.
PMCID: PMC1851706  PMID: 17391537

Results 1-3 (3)